Reconnection Centers offer students a second chance at graduation

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Teacher Rose Bolden is a staunch advocate for her students who are working toward graduation in the Reconnection Center credit recovery program at J. Leslie Patton Academic Center, the district’s high school for overage students.

Bolden describes herself as cheerleader, coach and chief encourager for the 54 students enrolled in her classes. “Every single, solitary one of them comes here with a goal. They know I’m in their corner, that I’m here to help them. They know that I’m pulling for them and I want them to have the success they desire.”

In addition to teacher facilitators like Bolden, Reconnection Centers offer students a self-paced online instruction program with access to online pre-tests, tutorials, lessons and exams. Available in virtually all district high schools, the Reconnection Center program is designed to help students recover credit for incomplete or failed courses. Counselors and center facilitators work together to identify students who are good candidates for the program that is offered on campus as a course during the normal school day.

The centers offer an option for students with credit deficits due to poor attendance, lack of effort or a need for more academic support. Students report to class in the Reconnection Centers’ computer labs where they work toward weekly goals and earn credit at their own pace. Those who remain on track can recover enough credits to be promoted or graduate with their class cohort.

Bolden sees the program as a second chance for students to achieve success. “Face to face instruction is great, but I like the idea they have more than one alternative,” she said. “They own that they messed up somewhere along the way. They had chronic absences or they put their job ahead of their education. Or they’re parents. Life has just thrown them some curves. But when they make up their minds that they want to graduate, they ask to be placed in this program so they can catch up and graduate on time.”

Bolden moves quietly around her large computer lab, offering her students assistance and encouragement. One is Darius Brown who came to Patton from his home school, David W. Carter. “I got behind on credits because I wasn’t going to school,” he said. “I was just messing up. My grades were good but I just couldn’t get the credit because of my attendance.”

Today, Brown is working to earn credits in English and Spanish classes. Asked why he decided to get serious about graduating, he says, “Seeing my mom struggle. And I knew that if I kept on going the way I was going, it was going to lead to bad things so I decided to get on the right path.”

Brisa Rivera is another of Bolden’s students. Like Brown, she likes working at her own pace. “In my other classes, I have to move at whatever pace the teacher is moving,” said Rivera. “Here, I take my notes and do my quizzes at my own pace. I can stay on a subject for hours or just move quickly through it.” Rivera says she also revisits the online tutorials on her smartphone during lunch and after school.

Brown says he works faster and finds it easier to progress in the center’s calm environment. “To me, it’s better than the (regular) classroom.” He says he’s determined to graduate this spring and go on to attend college. Both students say they owe a lot of their success to Rose Bolden. “She’s like a mom to me. I love her to death. She’s like a teacher and a mom at the same time,” said Brown.

In spite of past difficulties, Bolden says she’s confident that Brown and Rivera will accomplish their goals. “This program serves students of all ability levels. There is no typical child. If a child comes in here and is determined to get ahead and graduate, that child is going to do just fine. They don’t all move at the same pace, but if that determination is there, they’re going to get to the finish line whether it’s, next week, the week after or three weeks later.”

To be successful, Bolden says students need to be able to read well, be focused and self-motivated, take notes and be fearless enough to ask questions if they don’t understand. “Once students accept responsibility for their learning, they will be able to be continue their education. Even when they’re married, have jobs, and become parents, they can get online and do the work to get their degree.”

To learn more about the Reconnection Centers and their track record of success, go here to see the 2015 evaluation of the program.

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